Nassau owes $ 17.2 million in repayments after property assessment challenges

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Nassau County owes homeowners $ 17.2 million after losing thousands of court challenges over property assessments in the 2020-21 tax year, the first of the county-wide reassessment, county data obtained by Newsday.

Refunds are owed to 7,427 homeowners who won their appraisal cases against the county after tax bills were sent out in November, according to a new report from the non-partisan Office of the Legislative Budget Review.

In addition, settlements reached before the tax bills were paid resulted in a transfer of nearly $ 200 million in property taxes from homeowners who successfully fought their assessments to those who lost their lawsuits or did not. appealed, according to county data. Since the amount of money to be raised by taxes remains constant, any reduction given to homeowners must be offset by others.

Nassau publishes an interim valuation roll in January of each year, telling homeowners how their homes are valued. Homeowners usually have until the end of April to appeal the values ​​assigned by the county. Tax bills don’t come out until October.

The Nassau County tax appeal process has two stages. The first is to file a grievance with the Assessment Review Board. Those who lose to the CRA can then appeal under the Small Claims Assessment Review, or SCAR.

For the 2020-2021 tax year, a total of 80,000 taxpayers filed appeals via the SCAR.

Nassau resolved 58,000 of those challenges through a new mediation program designed to quickly resolve cases, according to a memo from the Nassau Office of Management, Budget and Finance.

Another 22,000 challenges that could not be resolved were transferred to SCAR’s administrative hearings, according to the records. And Nassau has lost about 13,500 cases, including 7,427 cases won by taxpayers after the tax roll was finalized in fall 2020, according to the county memo.

Because the nearly 7,500 homeowners had already paid their taxes for schools and other jurisdictions, Nassau became responsible for repaying $ 17.2 million in overpayments.

The average reimbursement was $ 2,267, according to the county memo.

Nassau officials say even with refunds, the average amount of appraisal reductions was around 4% in value, which they and a Westchester County appraiser said is a small revision.

Nassau officials have also said they are having difficulty settling all of SCAR’s claims in time for the publication of the tax roll because the coronavirus pandemic has closed the courts and extended the deadline for filing claims. assessment from April 30 to September 4, weeks before issuance of tax invoices.

Nassau County is responsible for reimbursing all tax overpayments paid to school districts and other jurisdictions, under a state law known as the “County Guarantee.”

Nassau owes the largest average refunds for 2020-2021 largely to taxpayers in school districts and high-income North Shore communities, according to the Legislative Budget Review Office.

Nassau must reimburse as much as:

  • $ 1.53 million to owners of 333 plots in the Great Neck School District. Average reimbursement is $ 4,590 per package.
  • $ 825,303 to owners of 234 plots in the Port Washington School District. Average reimbursement is $ 3,527 per package.
  • $ 707,286 to the owners of 165 plots in the hamlet of Woodbury. Average reimbursement is $ 4,287 per package.
  • $ 652,210 to owners of 189 plots in the Roslyn School District. Average reimbursement is $ 3,450 per package.
  • $ 641,942 to the owners of 157 plots in the Manhasset school district. Average reimbursement is $ 4,089 per package.

The communities that are expected to receive the smallest reimbursements from Nassau are:

  • Roosevelt School District, where $ 5,617 is owed to owners of 7 parcels. Average reimbursement is $ 802 per package.
  • Island Park School District, where $ 30,811 is owed to owners of 22 plots. The average reimbursement is $ 1,400 per package.
  • Valley Stream-24 School District, where $ 33,162 is owed to owners of 37 plots. Average reimbursement is $ 896 per package.
  • Valley Stream-30 School District, where $ 36,545 is owed to the owners of 44 plots. Average reimbursement is $ 831 per package.
  • Malverne school district, where $ 45,991 is owed to owners of 43 plots. Average reimbursement is $ 1,070 per package.

Nassau County Leader Laura Curran has ordered all 386,000 residential properties to be reassessed in time for the 2020-2021 tax year with the goal of creating an accurate and fair assessment roll. Curran, a Democrat, is running for re-election this year.

Edward Mangano, Curran’s Republican predecessor, implemented a valuation freeze in 2011 and it lasted eight years. At the end of his tenure, the properties were undervalued.

Under Mangano, a Republican, the county assessment review board settled about 80% of tax challenges during the freeze period. (Curran left the freeze in place in the 2019-20 tax year.) By giving automatic reductions to many tax filers, ARC shifted much of the property tax burden from those who contested their successful evaluations to those who did not file or win grievances. .

Nassau County Assistant Assessor Robert Miles said that despite the large tally of refunds for the 2020-21 tax year, properties on average received write-downs of around 4%, which represents small revisions from their original assessments. Miles said the 4% figure “speaks to the accuracy of the roll.”

County officials could not say how much Nassau had reimbursed residential owners in the past prior to the reassessment. Newsday submitted a FOIL request for the data.

It was probably a small amount: the number of SCAR hearings ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 each year for the past decade, compared to 80,000 filed last year.

Before settling SCAR’s claims, the CRA granted reductions to 61,118 filers in 2020-2021, and the settlements shifted the tax burden of $ 87.2 million from those who got reductions to those who didn’t. have not, according to the legislative budget office review.

“These savings represent a tax increase for non-challengers and unsuccessful challengers,” the report said.

About two-thirds of landowners who filed appeals with SCAR obtained reductions that were made before the tax roll was established. The reductions of those estimated 54,000 homeowners resulted in a tax transfer of $ 105 million on homeowners who failed to appeal their appraisals.

According to the report, some communities have done better than others in the ARC process.

In the majority minority and low-income communities of Westbury, Roosevelt and Hempstead, the percentage of successful challenges was 8.4%, 10.3% and 11.1%, respectively.

The percentage was highest in Long Beach, at 51.6%; Lynbrook at 43.5% and East Rockaway at 42.7%.

Larry Clark, director of strategic initiatives for the International Association of Assessing Officers, based in Kansas City, Missouri, said in an interview with Newsday: “Until you get a good solid result that everyone accepts, then it will just be a matter of shifting the burden of property tax. “

He continued, once “you get to a small number each year, the changes won’t be as noticeable.”

The number of grievances filed with SCAR, for the 2021-2022 tax year, is about 60,000, up from 80,000 a year earlier, Miles said.

Edye McCarthy, municipal assessor for Greenburgh in Westchester County, a city of 91,000, said Nassau did many things right when it was reassessed.

“Unfortunately, due to the timing, from the time you finalize your assessment rolls to send in your tax rolls, it’s a very short period,” she said. “That’s why Nassau County has the rebate [liability], they just didn’t have enough manpower. “

McCarthy said Nassau’s average valuation reduction of 4% is low: “No one, no one is so good at proposing … with a market value today that is fair.”

Lloyd Tasch, president of the New York State Association of Appraisers, said Nassau also has to defend a large number of appeals each year because law firms specializing in tax challenges file so many petitions.

Businesses earn income by taking a portion – often 50% – of homeowners’ tax savings if they are successful.

“It’s not so much a reflection of poor reassessment, it’s just the fact that the reps are doing a wonderful job of getting their point across, and if that’s okay, why not? wouldn’t you “drop a challenge,” said Tasch, assessor for the City of White Plains.

But Légis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) said that the task of dealing with the large number of challenges “is a responsibility that the [Curran] the administration asked. “

Administration officials “told us they would be able to do it on time,” Rhoads said. “Unfortunately, the way they handled these valuation challenges left them in a position where we now have to pay back.”

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